July 2021

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Applying Haystack 4 in a Residential Analytics and Control Application

By Adam Wallen

Lead Trainer, SkyFoundry



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With the burgeoning of smart devices in the home, there is yet another paradigm for project haystack.  Some may feel that project haystack is limited to commercial and industrial applications, but the beauty of a tag-based system is just how extensible it is.  Something is not modeled?  Add a tag and voila! 


Anyone with access to a dwelling can install smart devices.  That enables science to happen.  Want to log the data for analytics?  Want to actually control devices based on anything you can measure (date, time, temperature, humidity, light, motion, and countless more)?  It all starts with an idea. 


The benefits of analytics are practically immeasurable.  Here are some of the things analytics can achieve:

       Keep a space comfortable

       Keep a space safe

       Save money & energy / reduce emissions

       Prolong equipment life

       Find root causes

       Know about issues as soon as they occur


And here are some findings from this experiment:

       Discharge Air Temp Sensor (DATS) too high or too low to be effective (possibly low on refrigerant)

       DATS lower or higher than it is ever supposed to be (possible clogged air filter)

       Some rooms too hot or too cold (especially at night)

       Fridge would get too hot or too cold


Turning one’s own house to the smart home of the future has the following obvious benefits:

       Save money & energy / reduce emissions

       Make space comfortable

       Not have to turn things on/off or change setpoints

       Not having go over to do the above if someone forgets to do this


Here are some things that were done in this experiment:

       Have extra sensors to monitor temps and run the main HVAC fan for a zone if temp differential too great

       Floor fans on at night after detecting motion

       Turning lights on and off at night or on with motion or doors opening

       Automating irrigation system

       Use of buttons to control most things in a house

       For changing setpoints in a zone that is not always occupied


The following technologies were utilized:

       Thermostats: Ecobee, Honeywell Lyric, and RadioThermostat

       Hubs: Samsung SmartThings and Hubitat

       Numerous Zigbee and Zwave devices

       Computer: Raspberry Pi 4 with Raspian

       Software Platform: SkySpark


Here is how this system functions.  The software layer logs and controls smart devices.  It could be considered the brains of the operation.  Custom connectors allow the software to talk to the SmartThings and Hubitat hubs as well as several thermostats in this project.  The ability to control wall plugs makes for a key feature here.  Anything that can be plugged into a standard wall outlet can now be controlled as well as have runtimes logged.  Many of these wall plugs also allow the monitoring of energy usage.  Controlling colored and dimmable lights made this project even more comprehensive. 


This is the how the flow works for SmartThings:




Next, this is the how the flow works for the Hubitat hub:




How do we apply Haystack 4 Defs to this application?  Here is how the tagging is applied.  Start with thermostats since many have a desired mode (ex: heat, cool, auto, off) and a current state (ex: heat or cool) for the thermostat itself.  The desired mode could be considered a sp while the actual state is what the thermostat itself is currently commanded to do.  The sp tag actually means setpoint OR soft point or a few other things.  It is often confused for meaning purely setpoint.  There is also a hvacMode tag.  There could also be a hvacState tag to complement it.  Similar to how an ahu can have many points, a thermostat can have external points that are used to make decisions on what the thermostat should do, but they just happen to not be connected directly to the thermostat. 


Here are some Haystack 4 Defs themselves:

        thermostat equip (fan points already standardized)

      hvacMode sp

      hvacState cmd

      fan cmd

      fan sensor

        external points not directly connected but modelled under thermostat

      zone air temp sensor number:1

      zone air temp sensor number:2

      zone air humidity sensor

      discharge air temp sensor

        elec meter equip (siteMeter and submeter) – (already standardized)

      power sensor

      energy sensor

      voltage sensor

      current sensor

      cost sensor

        Some not so unusual things to model

      light level sensor

      occupied sensor

      vibration sensor

      uv sensor

      h2o leak sensor

        h2o tag used to follow pattern of equip having water tag and points having chemical formula tags

        Some common and not so common things to model

      door contact sensor

      window contact sensor

      fan plug cmd

      stereo plug cmd

      subWoofer plug cmd

      radio plug cmd

      tv plug cmd

      projector plug cmd

      fountain plug cmd

      computer monitor plug cmd

      button cmd

      light level cmd

      light chromaticity level cmd

      light colorTemp level cmd

      light chromaticity colorTemp level cmd

      fob and fobOccupied and occupied and sensor

        The Samsung hub integrates with many of their smart devices


Here are some examples of control algorithms:

Radio on with Motion

Look at the occupancy sensor between 8am and 8pm and if movement is seen, energize the plug which turns on the radio.  This times out after four minutes.  This single-handedly entertained our daughter for much of COVID and saved some of our sanity. 


Main Fan On if Delta Temp Too Great

This circulates the air at night if one bedroom is too hot and the other is too cold; thus, averaging out the temperature. 


Here are some examples of analytics algorithms:

Discharge Temp Out of Range

One of the best early indicators of any HVAC system’s health is the discharge air temp sensor.  If the values are lower or higher than they are ever supposed to be, that may indicate a clogged air filter among other things. 


Fridge Out of Range

Putting sensors in fridges was a nice way to test the capabilities of those sensors.  It also aids in knowing that fridges do not necessarily keep the temperature as stable as one might wish.

Adam attended the United States Air Force Academy.  He studied Aeronautical and Mechanical Engineering.  Electrical Engineering is something he does for fun.  Obviously, teaching programming is central to his career

Adam worked in finance for a while where he picked up an interest in stock trading.  He started his programming career with VBA and SQL and his passion for automation grew from there. 

Adam does not hide the fact that he's enthusiastic about cars and that he specializes in Corvettes.  In addition to this, he loves to weld and has completed some welding projects in his home garage.    His love of water is evident by the fact that he's a PADI Divemaster with a boating license

He is also a published author: https://smile.amazon.com/Beneficial-Banter-Connecting-through-Conversations/dp/1495487415/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1623865544&sr=1-2
As you can see, you can talk to Adam about virtually anything


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